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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » C » Clarke, Rebecca



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Rebecca Clarke (8/27/1886 - 10/13/1979)

Her gender and Victorian upbringing were both determining factors in the life and career of violist Rebecca Clarke. Musical activities were encouraged by her American father and German mother, but her father—a strict disciplinarian—withdrew her from the Royal Academy when she received a marriage proposal from her teacher Percy Hilder Miles. Later, having become one of Stanford’s first female composition students at the Royal College of Music, Clarke’s own interference in her father’s love affairs resulted in her ejection from the family home, and another interruption to her studies. Sexual discrimination affected her career in other ways: reporters, for example, declared that her Viola Sonata, joint first prizewinner in a composition competition in 1919, could not have been written by a woman. Clarke struggled to balance her career and home life, feeling later on that she should eschew the former in favour of the latter. Nonetheless she made a living from performing, becoming the first female appointee in Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra in 1912, after Stanford persuaded her to transfer from violin to viola. Clarke spent some years in the USA from 1916, touring and performing with her two brothers and English cellist May Mukle. Returning to London in 1924 she continued both solo and ensemble appearances, including BBC broadcasts, and in 1927 formed the English Ensemble piano quartet with Marjorie Hayward (violin), Kathleen Long (piano) and May Mukle (cello).

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